One of the biggest issues the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) faces is whether or not to pay college athletes. The NCAA makes millions off of their sports but the athletes don’t get paid because they are STUDENT-athletes. Without getting into the argument to pay college athletes or not, I am going to dig into the players brand, image, and likeness part. The NCAA has stated that they are looking at how its rules can be modified to allow college athletes to be compensated for their names, images, and likenesses, otherwise known as their NIL. The NCAA has said they have a working group looking at the rule and to possibly propose a new rule that will allow athletes to profit off their NIL.
Why It’s Needed
The NCAA needs to allow athletes to profit from their NIL because it’s the only solution to the hot topic of paying student-athletes. Since there are so many athletes and different sport programs, it will be hard to equally pay everyone. Also, each program won’t have the same salary. For example, Alabama would have an unfair amount allotted to pay their athletes compared to smaller schools for various reasons. These athletes play in million dollar stadiums and top of the line facilities; some of the facilities have mini-golf courses, slide, barbershop, dentist, anything you can think of. There is no clear answer to fairly compensate players so they need to profit off their own NIL. An art student can sell a piece for $5, while another student can sell one for $5k. By giving athletes the freedom to go out and benefit off their NIL, it will help to eliminate scandals from coaches and boosters paying players. Even non-revenue generating sports will benefit because they still have their own market that is interested in their star players, which will allow them to sign autographs, appearance, and endorsement deals.
The NCAA already makes money off their athletes. For example, Zion Williamson was college basketball’s biggest name this last season and ESPN took advantage of it. ESPN showed every Duke game possible, had a TV show about Duke’s freshman class (“Earned Everything”), and during the NBA Lottery pick show, they often showed his highlights and promoted whoever got the first pick won the Zion show. ESPN also has a TV show called “Training Camp with Bama”, which follows Alabama football’s dynasty during fall camp. Allowing players to profit from their NIL, will allow ESPN and other networks to have more programs to showcase players.
Allowing college athletes to be compensated for their NIL allows them to start their own brands earlier than when they get to the pros. We have seen the Ball family, Lonzo, Melo, and Gelo, get a head-start on their brand “Big Baller Brand” when they were in high school (Lonzo’s shoes came after college). Players like Zion and Johnny Manziel that took over the college sports world can start their brand in college rather than waiting it out until after. It will allow them to have options for different endorsements and allow them to have their brand started already when they become star professional players.
It will also give players a chance to earn some money if they don’t go on to have a successful career in the pros. Jimmer Fredette took over the college basketball world as a junior at BYU in 2010 and became popular with his shooting ability. Jimmer became so popular in his senior season, “Jimmered” became a verb and “JimmerMania” took over America. Jimmer’s NBA career wasn’t as successful after being drafted by the Kings (even though his jersey sold out in Sacramento stores/online), he saw little playing time and eventually left to play in China. He is trying to make a comeback in the NBA by signing a two year deal with the Phoenix Suns. Even though Jimmer took over the country and was the biggest name in college basketball during his 4 year career, he couldn’t cash in any money, while the NCAA was making millions of his name. Jimmer could have started his own brand, sold his merchandise, and done several endorsement deals. All of this would have made him money, as well as promote BYU basketball and college basketball as a whole. Many players have tried to profit off their name in college, or even try to promote their other talent. We have seen players suspended for getting tattoos for autographs, a wrestler getting told that he can’t promote his music because the NCAA own his name, a UCF kicker having to decide between his YouTube channel and football career, among several other situations similar. The NCAA has many scandals that they could worry about instead of what players are doing with their free time.
The NCAA needs to pass this new rule for their fans– the ones paying for all the tickets and making the NCAA a billion dollar industry. Just allowing players to sign autographs, get endorsement deals, and have their own brand will help grow their leagues. It will allow players to stay in college longer instead of trying to get into the league, taking advantage of the “One and Done” rule. Amir Coffey, a Gopher basketball great would rather play in the NBA G-League than come back to the Gophers for his senior year. If he could profit off his name, he could potentially have an endorsement deal with local business that would allow him to promote Gopher basketball.
Fans would also get their beloved video games back. A former college basketball player issued a lawsuit against the NCAA after realizing their was an avatar of a player on an NCAA Basketball Video game that looked just like him. He didn’t allow anyone to use his image for anything, but yet the NCAA was still making money off of him long after he played college ball. With this lawsuit, one of the most sought after video games became non-existent. If players are allowed to profit off of their NIL, which would include using players in video games, the video games will be able to make a comeback, making fans everywhere happy. Sorry Ed O’Bannon… I think you will be left off the game from now on…
If nothing changes
If nothing changes with the NCAA’s issue of paying athletes, soon big-time athletes will start looking into professional leagues, and skip dealing with the NCAA altogether. It might not happen as much in football as it would basketball, but once one player tries a new thing and is successful, then more and more players won’t be scared of following suit. The NBA G-league passed a rule that will allow athletes that aren’t eligible for the NBA play in the G-league for a year, which will allow them to be train by NBA personnel as well as get paid. A few players have gone overseas to wait till they are eligible for the draft and gone on to the NBA (Emmanuel Mudiay and 2008 No. 1 prospect Brandon Jennings). RJ Hampton is now another big name player going oversea to play for the New Zealand Breakers, if RJ is still a lottery pick after next season it will open the door to top prospect going overseas instead of playing in the NCAA. Another top prospect, LaMelo Ball, will likely go another route away from the NCAA due to unclarity of if he will be eligible (played in Lithuania, shoe deal). Whatever route he goes, and if he becomes a top NBA prospect, will continue to push open the door of avoiding the NCAA.
The group is expected to provide an update on its efforts in August, with a final report due to the Board of Governors in October. The next NCAA convention is Jan. 22-25 in Anaheim, California. This is when the new rule could go to vote. The NCAA needs to make a change to allow players to profit off their NIL to keep big-name players from going to other leagues, give fans their beloved video games back, sell more merchandise, and solve the issue of whether or not to pay college athletes. By allowing athletes to make money off their NIL it will benefit athlete, the NCAA, and the fans. By withholding players making money it will continue to give the NCAA a bad image as while as let top recruits slip out from under them and look at other routes to get to the professional level.